Pasta Perfecto

Pasta and Noodle Dishes from Around the World

(No gluten or dairy – with options for nightshades*, legumes*, yeast, eggs and cane sugar)

Foods can suffer from discrimination and abuse especially at the hand of science segregationists. Carbs are in and fats are out; then carbs are bad and protein gets celebrity status. What makes for the confusion is looking at foods in isolation when they are rarely eaten that way. If all you ate was any one superb food your health would suffer. Plus different people experience different results from eating the same foods.

Carbohydrates are all broken down into blood sugar or glucose, but they do this at varying speeds. If you ate a starchy carb all on its own – such as bread, pasta, rice or potato – blood sugar levels (BSL) would tend to spike up and down leaving you moody and fatigued. But those foods can instead be combined with other nutrients; contrasting colours, flavours and textures to create a tasty and healthy meal or snack. Add peanut butter or Dynamite (see The Shape Diet) and banana to that bread; serve the pasta with my Pesto (below) and fan grilled veg; use the rice to make sushi with seaweed and fish; top a baked potato with hummus and accompany with salad. Now you have a delicious repast that will assist weight, mood and vitality. Diet and health are less about static absolutes than successful relationships.

Fast Fab Pasta* Ideas:

• Quick Toss: make omelet, scrambled eggs or Tofu Scramble (see website RECIPES) with onion, mushroom, red pepper or bacon; crumble. Toss with cooked pasta, parsley, baby spinach leaves, tamari almonds or marinated artichokes, olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt*, pepper, optional fresh basil or fennel. Or omit eggs/tofu and toss with tinned salmon, tuna or sardines.

• Quick Platter: toss cooked pasta with olive oil*, sea salt*, parsley; legumes* or egg/tofu/fish as per Toss. Place on platter; surround with steamed or raw veg. At centre place guacamole (chopped: red onion, tomato or cucumber; mashed avocado; chilli or wasabi; lemon juice or rice vinegar; sea salt*).

• Californian: in olive oil* brown pinenuts, or sliced squid, or free-range bacon or lamb steak pieces. Lower heat; sweat* courgette, onion, carrot, mushroom. Add cooked pasta; either olives and capers; or grapes or pawpaw/papaya. Just before serving add Pesto. Season with sea salt* and ground pepper.

• Sardinian: in ample olive oil* slow fry garlic, red onion, green pepper (or cubed pumpkin) until soft not brown. Add handful breadcrumbs; cook until crisp. Add chopped tinned clams, anchovies, sardines or tuna. Toss with cooked spaghetti and lots of parsley. Taste for sea salt*.

• Maria’s: cook pasta; toss with Italian Bean Dip, Creamy Salmon Sauce, Asian Cashew Combo, Tex-Mex Beans, Tofu Scramble/Tasty Tidbits (RECIPES). Serve with salad or steamed veg.

• White or Curry Sauce: in olive oil* briefly sweat* carrot, green beans, cauliflower and optional caraway seeds. Add nutmeg (or curry powder) and rice flour*. Stir in ½ Milk Option*, ½ chicken stock or white wine and bring to a boil until thick with legumes*, chopped fish or chicken – or later add sliced hard-boiled eggs. Season with sea salt, dill leaf. Serve pasta on the side tossed with dill leaf. Or mix all components; pour into oiled casserole dish; cover with breadcrumbs or mushrooms, season and bake.

• No-Tomato Vegan/Meat Sauce: instead of tomatoes fry in olive oil* pumpkin; or plums; or ½ beetroot ½ carrots; or red peppers until tender not brown; puree in blender. Fry onion; garlic; optional free-range bacon pieces, chopped anchovies, mushrooms or chilli. Add puree. Simmer with rosemary, balsamic vinegar, brown/palm sugar*, olives or capers; sea salt* or soy sauce* depending on preferred finished colour. (These options to tomato – a fruit – may sound odd but it is the same concept as making plum chutney, cranberry relish, or BBQ sauce with other fruits).

• Spaghetti Bolognaise (no tomato): in olive oil* fry lamb mince (or free-range bacon then add cooked brown lentils) with garlic; onion, carrot, mushroom, courgette. Lightly cover with ½ red wine ½ beef stock*. Per cup liquid add: 2 Tbsp each soy sauce*, brown/palm sugar*, balsamic vinegar and olives; 1 tsp each oreganum, basil; 2 bay leaves. Simmer uncovered until reduced by half. Taste for salt. If too thin gradually stir in breadcrumbs until of desired consistency. Serve with spaghetti.

• Indonesian-style Peanut Sauce: to ¾ stock* and ¼ coconut cream* add garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander and per cup liquid 2 Tbsp each: peanut butter*, rice flour*, soy sauce*, apple cider vinegar, brown or palm sugar*. Add broccoli, kumara/sweet potato, corn, peas, Protein Option (legumes*, prawns, squid rings, cubed tofu or chicken). Simmer until cooked. Serve with noodles tossed with chopped mint or coriander.

• Japanese-Style: in stock* (dashi, fish or chicken) simmer garlic, ginger, miso*, seaweed*, rice vinegar, shiitake*mushrooms, celery, pumpkin, turnip, green beans; cubed tofu, fish or chicken; optional mirin (rice wine) or sherry. Thicken with cornflour or arrowroot. Add rice or buckwheat noodles* and serve.

• Casserole: toss cooked pasta with raw baby spinach or chopped cooked spinach; olive oil*, sea salt*, pepper. Layer in oiled dish with any sauce/dip as above, or sauce as follows: prepare as for Californian or Sardinian (no pasta) and add seasoned tomatoes; or mashed pumpkin with sea salt*, rosemary and white wine vinegar; or stewed plums with balsamic vinegar, soy sauce*, sage and thyme; or ½ carrots ½ beetroot steamed and pureed and season as for plums. Layer with pasta ending with sauce. Top with mixed breadcrumbs, ground nuts and sea salt*; or mushrooms, sunflower seeds and soy sauce*; bake as for lasagne. Let sit 10 minutes for easier slicing.

Pesto makes 1¼ cups
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, cane sugar, legumes*, egg or nightshades*)

Toss this scrumptious pesto – high in protein, soluble fibre and minerals – with pasta or steamed veg; dollop over baked vegetables; smear over cooked tofu, fish or chicken; spread on bread or crackers (no need for butter); or mix with breadcrumbs to stuff mushrooms and other vegetables.

New Zealand soils are low in iodine: a mineral critical for the thyroid gland to regulate weight and temperature. Seaweed is the number one food source of iodine and calcium, plus high in magnesium and iron. Fresh coriander and garlic are anti-viral, anti-bacterial. Nuts and seeds are good sources of anti-inflammatory unsaturated fats, vitamin E, and growth-promoting zinc. Their protein, the soluble fibre in seaweed, and the acidity of the lemon juice all help regulate blood sugar.

¼ cup coarsely chopped brazils
¼ cup walnuts
¼ cup pumpkin kernels
1 cup packed fresh coriander, basil, or Thai basil
60 ml (¼ cup) lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1-3 Tbsp dried wakame or karengo fronds (seaweed*); start with smaller amount, adjust to taste
3 medium cloves garlic
½ to 1 tsp sea salt with kelp* to taste
80 ml (5 Tbsp + 1 tsp) or more extra-virgin olive oil*

Use a heavy-based fry pan – no oil is necessary. Over low to medium heat lightly toast brazils, walnuts and pumpkin kernels just until fragrant and golden.

Place in a food processor with herbs, lemon juice, seaweed, garlic and salt. Process on high speed until finely blended. With the motor running, drizzle in oil until smooth. To thin further add stock, avocado, more oil or lemon juice; it will thicken further upon standing. Cover and refrigerate.

Tahini Sauce makes about 1 cup
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, cane sugar, egg or nightshades*; has soy but no other legumes*)

Easy One Pot Combo: in hot saucepan from cooking pasta (reserve a little cooking water) toss hot drained pasta with Tahini Sauce, baby spinach or grated courgette; sun-dried tomatoes, capers or olives; sliced mushrooms and Protein Option (cooked or tinned legumes*, boiled/scrambled eggs; cooked/tinned fish; marinated mussels; chopped anchovies); use pasta water to thin as preferred. Or mix pasta, Tahini Sauce and Protein Option; accompany with salad or steamed veg.

Tahini* is sesame paste (used in hummus) high in calcium and protein. Seeds are top sources of many minerals such as magnesium and zinc; good sources of fibre, inflammation-reducing fats, and B vitamins.

Tahini Sauce/Dressing:
4 Tbsp tahini*
3 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp tamari or other naturally brewed soy sauce*
1 spring onion, chopped

As it often separates, stir tahini in jar before measuring (if the tahini is stiff instead of runny, use 1 Tbsp less and add 1 Tbsp olive or sesame oil to thin). Mix with the lemon juice, parsley, soy sauce and onion.

Sicilian-Style Pasta serves 3
(No gluten, dairy, egg, soy, legumes* – with options for nightshades* cane sugar, plant/animal protein)

Unlike gloppy overseas interpretations, most Italian sauces are subtle anointments. Sauces may be thickened with some of the starchy water left from cooking pasta. Here the light coating is a carrier for the salty punch of olives, the crunch of nuts, the sweetness of currants and the bite of heat. The mixture of grain (pasta) and nuts here is a good vegetarian protein combination. It can further benefit from added protein, bulk and antioxidants by serving it with one of the Accompaniments below.

125 g cornmeal, rice, millet or buckwheat small pasta* shapes
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil*
heaped ¼ cup (5 Tbsp) chopped pistachios
1 large onion, sliced
12 green beans or asparagus, or 2 medium courgettes, sliced
1 medium carrot, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
¼ tsp chilli flakes (or pinch wasabi or hot mustard)
250 ml (1 cup) reserved pasta water
¼ cup currants
3 Tbsp tomato paste (or 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar + 1 Tbsp brown or palm sugar*)
3 Tbsp chopped black olives, or anchovies or sardines
1 tsp sea salt*

Cook pasta according to packet instructions (8-10 minutes for Orgran varieties) until al dente – resistant to the bite – and not mushy. Reserve 1 cup of cooking water. Drain the pasta, set aside and keep warm.

In olive oil over low heat gently sauté the nuts, onion, choice of seasonal green vegetable, carrot, garlic and chilli (or option). Cook about 5 minutes until lightly softened. Stir in 150 ml of the reserved water, currants, tomato paste (or option), olives and salt. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes until the vegetables are just cooked and the sauce is thick. At any point add more reserved water as needed to thin the sauce. Add pasta and cook 2 minutes to warm and coat with sauce. Taste for salt and serve.

• Salad with legumes* such as chickpeas, lentils or cannellini beans (cooked, or tinned and drained).
• Salad with cubed or grated firm tofu.
• Salad with slices of hard boiled egg or omelet.
• Salad with cubed organic cheese (soy, cow, sheep or goat).
• Salad with cooked, tinned, or naturally smoked fish.

Italian-style Pasta with Chickpeas and Basil
serves 3-4
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, sugar, egg, soy, potato or tomato)

Elegantly simple, this can be used as a side dish or main. Only use top quality smoky, sweet Spanish paprika such as La Chinata. This is usually sold in small decorative tins in the supermarket. Ordinary paprika is without the punchy vigour essential to this dish. As with pesto, many traditional Italian pasta sauces look more like salad dressings. They are intensely flavoured and used sparingly.

Legumes*, such as chickpeas, are used abundantly in Mediterranean cooking. Their blandness is a perfect foil for the creaminess of olive oil and the sharp punctuation of lemon, herbs and spices. To serve this as a main dish accompany with whole baby beetroot or corn on the cob, plus a salad with avocado or toasted pine nuts.

2 cups cooked chickpeas (legumes*), cooked or tinned and drained
1¼ cups lightly packed, chopped fresh basil
4 Tbsp lemon juice
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil*
2 large garlic cloves
1¼ tsp sea salt*
1¼ tsp smoky paprika
150 g cornmeal, buckwheat or rice pasta*

In a food processor place 1 cup chickpeas, ½ cup basil, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and paprika. Process on low speed just until coarsely chopped. To keep the texture varied and interesting (rather than pureed) stir in the remaining chickpeas.

Cook pasta according to packet instructions. Turn off heat. Drain and reserve ½ cup (125 ml) hot pasta-cooking water. Place the saucepan back on the burner for residual heat. Return the pasta to the saucepan. Stir in reserved liquid, bean mixture and stir. Immediately before serving, toss with the remaining basil.

Masala Noodles serves 4
(Vegan; no gluten, dairy, nightshades* or egg; with options for cane sugar, animal/plant protein)

This looks gorgeous on a big platter – its creamy, spicy grunt contrasting with the fresh clarity of cool fruit. A flavourful and popular vegetarian dish, there are numerous other protein possibilities.

4 tsp cold-pressed peanut oil* or extra-virgin olive oil*
¼ cup chopped blanched peanuts
1 tsp garam masala (mild Indian spice blend without nightshades*; from supermarket)
¼ shredded coconut
2½ cups mixed chopped vegetables such as onion, pumpkin, mushroom, broccoli and courgette
1 Tbsp cumin powder
1 Tbsp ground coriander
100 ml coconut cream*
3 Tbsp tamari (wheat-free naturally brewed soy sauce*)
1 Tbsp unsweetened, additive-free peanut butter*
1 Tbsp brown/palm sugar* or honey
90 g rice noodles (spaghetti or ribbon-style, not vermicelli) cooked, or other pasta*
3 Tbsp currants, or Craisins (dried cranberries with sugar; from supermarket)

Using 2 tsp oil, fry the peanuts over low to medium heat until lightly browned. Add garam masala and cook 1 minute to toast and bring out the flavour. Add coconut and cook 2-3 minutes until lightly browned – be watchful as it burns easily. Set mixture aside.

In the same fry pan add the remaining 2 tsp peanut oil. Add the vegetables, cover and over low heat cook until barely tender – do not brown. Stir in spices and fry 1 minute. Add the coconut cream, tamari, peanut butter and sugar. Simmer a few minutes until well combined. Stir in noodles and dried fruit. Cover and simmer gently about 2 minutes until the noodles have absorbed most of the liquid. Do minimal stirring or the rice noodles will break up. Immediately before serving, stir in the peanut mixture.

For more protein add boiled eggs; cubed or grated tofu; cooked or tinned fish – or include peas as a vegetable choice (TIPS: Protein). Or cook sliced chicken or pork with the vegetables. Or top with kebabs (tofu, fish, squid, prawn, chicken or meat; see The Shape Diet). Serve on a platter surrounded by cucumber, persimmon, grapes, melon or pineapple.

Shopping and Preparation Tips*

• Coconut cream: comes from the South Pacific such as Samoa. It is a tinned product found in most supermarkets. It should have the consistency of pouring cream and contain no dairy, flour or added sugar. ‘Lite’ types are not necessary: they just have added water and more processing. Instead use only a small amount of the ‘cream’ version, or thin with water, Milk Option or stock – depending on the needs of your recipe.

• Legumes: pod-bearing plants such as peas, beans, soy and lentils. Soak overnight and discard water to help eliminate an enzyme that can lead to poor digestion and gas. Add ample fresh water. Bring to a boil uncovered (watch for foaming; do not add salt as this slows cooking) until soft enough to squeeze between your fingers. They will almost triple in volume. See The Shape Diet for individual cooking times. Or buy cooked and tinned (Ceres is organic; it and Delmaine brands in supermarkets have only salt, water). Cook extra and freeze, or chill and use in fritters, casseroles, salads, soups, stews.

• Milk Options: organic cow or goat; soy, oat or nut milk. Or use rice milk – to each cup 3 tsp coconut cream can be added for more body. Use options in the same quantity as regular milk called for in recipes. Check packet milks for added sugar; ensure soy milk is organic and made from the whole bean. Pure Harvest is a good brand with many varieties: whole, organic, no added sugar.

• Nightshades: is the other name for the botanical solanaceae family of potato, tomato, peppers and eggplant. Some people cannot breakdown its solanine alkaloid (related to nicotine) affecting calcium metabolism, nerves, bones and joints (TIPS: Aches and Pains). To determine sensitivity obtain an allergy test from this office.

• Nut butter: Peanut butter is the well known example but also in most supermarkets are almond butter and cashew butter. Ceres’ brand is organic and has no sugar, artificial additives or highly processed fats unlike most other brands. Health stores also offer hazelnut, macadamia, sunflower, brazil and walnut butters – some are stiff (eg walnut) and some are runny (eg macadamia).

• Oil: mild, cold pressed oil suitable for baking and cooking is Ceres brand Organic Roasting and Frying Oil (from health stores). It is also second to extra virgin olive oil for affordability. For information on which fats to choose for which purpose and why, see my article on the TIPS page: The Fats of Life.

• Olive Oil: Extra virgin olive oil is achieved by using cold mechanical pressure rather than the high heat and chemical solvents typical to most supermarket oils. These practices damage oils and the people who eat them. For which fats to choose, how and why see TIPS: The Fats of Life.

• Palm sugar: is from palm tree syrup. It is moist and caramel in colour and taste. Packed in boxes of small brown rounds or squares, it is traditionally used in Thai cooking. It is available from most supermarkets next to other sugars (including organic cane sugars). Chop, grate or melt.

• Pasta/Noodles: Boil Asian-style rice noodles in ample water about 5 minutes until tender (or follow packet instructions as per minimum time); drain, rinse to prevent sticking and use. Orgran makes a wide variety of gluten-free pasta in various shapes available in most supermarkets. Gluten-free pasta is usually rice-based or may use buckwheat, corn, tapioca or mung bean flour. Lower in protein than ordinary pasta these are high-GI, so accompany with other blood sugar moderators (eg protein, fat, fibre, culinary acids, crunchy texture).

• Rice flour: best for baking is from very finely ground (can be called ‘zentrofan’) whole rice. Results will not be the same with Asian rice flour (made from starch only and looks sticky like cornflour). Use brown rice flour (finely milled with no grittiness). Or mix ½ brown rice flour (for increased nutrients) and ½ white rice flour (for increased lightness) as preferred. 2-3 Tbsp thickens 1 cup stock/milk or other liquid.

• Sea salt: is sea water dehydrated by sun. When mixed with seaweed (containing iodine and other minerals low in our soil) it is ideal in terms of flavour (interesting but not too strong) and mineral balance. Try Pacific Harvest or Malcolm Harker brands; both in health and gourmet stores. Ordinary salt is taken from mines or sea and so highly refined over extreme heat that it contains nothing but sodium chloride. Other minerals are stripped away such as potassium and magnesium which help regulate fluid balance and blood pressure. Chemicals to prevent clumping and bleach may be added.

• Seaweed: Top food source of soluble fibre and many minerals including calcium, iodine, manganese, and plant-based iron. Buy sushi sheets and rip into shreds to add to any moist food such as salad, soup, rice or pasta. Or buy locally harvested NZ karengo fronds or wakame fronds – tiny twists of seaweed available in health stores. Both these types can be used without advance soaking. Kombu and other coarser seaweeds can be soaked, stored, squeezed and chopped similarly to shiitake mushrooms.

• Shiitake mushrooms: dried, wrinkly fungi with chewy texture, earthy taste and considerable nutritional properties. High in soluble fibre they help regulate vitality, while glyconutrients and other constituents are linked with improved immunity. They keep for a year dried, and for weeks when in a jar covered with water and chilled. Use the flavourful soaking liquid in soup and sauces. When ready to use squeeze mushroom liquid into the jar or pot; slice off and discard woody stem; slice or chop finely.

• Soy sauce: can be a fake, unfermented chemical concoction of caramel colouring, artificial additives, wheat and cheap salt. True soy sauce contains nothing artificial and is naturally brewed for two to three years. It is made by fermenting soybeans with the help of a healthful mould (similar to making yoghurt or cheese); roasted grain – usually wheat or barley – for flavour and fermentation, plus salt. ‘Shoyu’ is the Japanese word for true fermented soy sauce. ‘Tamari’ describes naturally brewed soy sauce which does not contain wheat or other grain. In the supermarket look for organic Ceres brand, or plain only Kikkoman (their other varieties usually contain artificial additives including MSG: TIPS).

• Stock: use homemade meat, fish or vegetable stock (see The Shape Diet), or top quality purchased stock such as Essential Cuisine (in soft pouches in supermarket chiller or meat section). Most stock has sugar, wheat and artificial additives (see website TIPS: MSG). Traditionally miso soup is made with dashi – a stock made from bonito fish (dried flakes from Asian and some general supermarkets).

• Sweat: is a verb meaning to cook foods over low heat (often partly covered) until moisture is released. They will soften but not brown. Ideal for vegetables, requiring less oil and involving less heat damage.

• Tahini: is a paste – like runny peanut butter – made from ground sesame seeds and possibly added oil. It is available in jars in supermarkets near peanut butter. According to the seed processing, it may be labelled ‘unhulled’ which has a bitter taste (traditionally for East Asian cooking), or ‘hulled’ which has slightly lower nutrient levels but a milder flavour (a Middle Eastern staple such as used in hummus). As with nuts, cold-pressed oils, peanut and other nut butters, store tahini in the refrigerator.

Leave a comment


email* (not published)